When I look back on my four months with the Brookfield Institute, on the surface, I mostly remember struggling over word counts on Twitter, waiting for my video files to export on Premiere Pro and writing a lot. Like many interns, I dwell on the things I got done – the content and assets that I created and put out into the world. But when I really reflect back on my internship experience, I realize that the soft skills and intangibles – a term I picked up from one of Brookfield’s reports – that I gained here are what stands out to me as the most valuable takeaways.
It’s hard to quantify what I’ve learned and experienced at the Brookfield Institute this past summer. With each new report I helped to promote on social media, or every commentary piece I helped to edit for the website, I learned something new, thought about our economic systems a bit differently and, of course, became a better communicator. By the end of my internship, I developed tips and tricks for how to maximize my time and efforts as a communications intern for a) an organization with so much information to share and b) a virtual workplace. Here’s my guide to how communications interns can make the most of their time during a virtual placement at a research institute or similar organization.
Write down all your ideas and take notes during meetings
There’s no shortage of people preaching the value of organization, and I’m one of them. Being a communications team member, you’re often working on multiple projects at the same time, helping out with social media and doing organization-wide work. And of course, being an intern means you’re constantly learning the ropes of the organization, figuring out who’s who and deciphering acronyms (and at Brookfield, there are a lot of acronyms). That’s to say, there’s a lot to keep track of, and there’s also a lot of ideas floating around – during meetings, over Slack, or while you’re making your morning coffee – that often don’t get captured or organized properly. I made a habit of taking notes during most meetings, whether that was by hand or on my Notion page, even for seemingly random tidbits of information or ideas. At my weekly check-ins with my manager, Lianne, I took lots of notes on potential things I could work on or pitch in the future, which led to things like this jurisdiction scan or a Twitter thread for National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Sometimes ideas might not work for a given project or social campaign you’re working on, but could be applied to something you’re working on down the road.